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Apartments coming to 125-year-old St. Louis building built as warehouse

Apartments coming to 125-year-old St. Louis building built as warehouse for drying tobacco

Sherman Associates, a housing developer based in Minneapolis, is behind the undertaking. Paul Keenan, a Sherman Associates manager, said work on the project — called Station Plaza — will begin by mid-January.

The six-story building near Union Station, at 1900 Pine Street, will get a total interior rehab as 87 studio, one- and two-bedroom apartments. The $10.5 million construction job will obliterate offices put into the now-vacant building in the 1980s.

Key to the new project are state and federal low-income housing tax credits, plus state and federal historic preservation tax credits, Keenan said. The project also has from the city 15 years of property tax abatement.

Housing tax credits are especially valuable to Station Plaza because they allow Sherman Associates to offer below-market rents, Keenan said. He noted that Station Plaza is several blocks west of downtown’s higher-rent, more densely populated area.

Monthly rents for Station Plaza’s studio apartments will be $525. One-bedroom apartments will rent for $650 while two-bedroom units will go for $780. All the apartments will carry income restrictions for residents, who generally may earn no more than 60 percent of the area’s median annual individual or family income to qualify as tenants. (Median family income is $67,100 in the city; 60 percent for a family of four is $40,260. An individual’s adjusted income would be $28,200.)

Keenan said Station Plaza should be ready for occupancy by Jan. 1, 2016. The project includes space for 127 vehicles on a parking lot next to the building.

Royal Bank of Canada is putting $6.9 million in Station Plaza through the federal housing and historic preservation tax credits. Sugar Creek Capital, of Webster Groves, is investing $2.15 million in state housing tax credits, Keenan said.

Sherman Associates, whose historic preservation projects include the Syndicate Apartments at 915 Olive Street, said the old tobacco warehouse on Pine is a smart investment.

“There’s definitely some good economic activity going on in that part of St. Louis,” Keenan said.

The developer bought the building in 2014 from R&P Realty for about $1.6 million.

Liggett & Meyers Tobacco Co. completed the building in 1889 as a warehouse to dry chewing tobacco. According to documentation for the building’s inclusion on the National Register of Historic Places, the building had a key role in what was once the city’s thriving tobacco industry. Its unaltered exterior puts it among the city’s best preserved and sophisticated examples of 1880s industrial architecture, according to the report done by the Landmarks Association of St. Louis.

The city’s 19th-century tobacco industry was so strong that by 1897, Liggett & Meyers moved its headquarters from downtown to a larger complex in what is known now as the Botanical Heights neighborhood. The company retained 1900 Pine as a tobacco “drying house” for several more years.

Succeeding owners used the building to store plumbing supplies or to house light industry. In the 1930s, buildings just south of the old warehouse were demolished to make way for Aloe Plaza.

Keenan said Sherman Associates has no immediate plan for another St. Louis project but is scouting for opportunities.

“We are always looking in St. Louis, given the inventory of historic buildings,” he said.

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